BNZ wins UN gender equality award

MARIA SLADE
Last updated 09:45 07/03/2013

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The Bank of New Zealand and its CEO Andrew Thorburn have received a United Nations award for promoting gender equality.

The bank is one of five businesses around the world to be honoured by the UN Women's Empowerment Principles (WEP) group in its inaugural leadership awards.

The WEP are seven standards for empowering women that 542 companies around the world have so far signed up to. Besides the BNZ there are 13 New Zealand signatories, including Westpac, ASB, Coca-Cola Amatil, Skope Industries, SkyCity, The Warehouse and Z Energy.

BNZ and Thorburn have been given the WEP Benchmarking for Change award for the bank's work in driving greater representation of women at the upper levels of its management, and for embedding accountability to achieve gender equality.

Half of the BNZ's management team are now women.

The bank realised it was losing too many women, and had too few females in senior roles, Thorburn said.

''We looked at the number of women who were starting businesses in New Zealand or were significant decisionmakers in financial decisions, and we just weren't reflecting that in the way that we designed products and services or the way we trained our staff.''

So three to four years ago the bank started a major project to implement a diversity plan. It did a lot of benchmarking, using statistics from across Australasia and internationally, and a lot of surveying into attitudes.

It established a diversity council and implementing the diversity plan became a key performance measure for the bank's executive team, Thorburn said.

It found that one of the biggest issues for women was flexible working. BNZ now has a standardised flexible working policy, and the practice is tracked each month. ''Any job in the bank is able to be flexibly worked, that's our policy.''

It also changed the way it was recruiting so that it was actively looking for women. The shortlists for senior roles now must include female candidates.

It has put effort into closing the pay gap by measuring the roles performed by both male and female employees to ensure they are receiving equal pay for equal work.

A programme of identifying up-and-coming women and putting them on succession and development plans has also been implemented.

''What we've done is a very comprehensive plan that came out of benchmarking and diagnosis that was owned by the CEO the board and the executive team,'' Thorburn said.

The seven Women's Empowerment Principles are:

- Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality.

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- Treat all women and men fairly at work - respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination.

- Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers.

- Promote education, training and professional development for women.

- Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women.

- Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy.

- Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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